Turkey’s culture minister compares artifact smugglers to ‘mafia’
Ömer Erbil – ANKARA
Historic artifact smugglers have established a “mafia-style order” and the ministry is working to return smuggled artifacts to Turkey, Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told daily Hürriyet on Feb. 4.
Kurtulmuş said a team within the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Museums is closely following all collections and auctions in Europe to see if any artifact smuggled out of Turkey is being exhibited or sold. If they detect any, the Culture and Tourism Ministry works in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry to get them back through diplomatic channels.
“Historical artifact smugglers operate like mafias. They commercialize precious artifacts in numerous places across the world no matter how hard the conditions are for them,” Kurtulmuş said.
“For instance, we talk about antique cities destroyed by the DAESH in Syria. I believe we will see many art pieces from those cities in important collections or museums in the West,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Kurtulmuş also said they are constantly calling on the international community to look into the issue, stressing the “uncivilized” act of “exhibiting smuggled artifacts.”
As for renovation works, Kurtulmuş said a single structure was required to oversee all renovation works at every stage of the process.
“It is important to pay particular attention to conservation rules. Instead of granting a renovations permit first, and seeing the results later, we should constantly inspect the process as a whole,” he said.